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“Replanting should be amongst National Development Priorities in Coconut Growing Countries”

("The Cocommunity" - Monthly APCC Newsletter
Volume 46, Series No. 1, 1 January 2016)

It would be consistent with increasing concerns for declining coconut production in most countries that APCC sets out to encourage farmers around the globe to lift their visions higher and aggressively pursue replanting of coconuts to achieve sustainability in the industry. The private sector and governments of respective countries should implement focused strategies in coconut development that would assist mitigate or counter climate change effect, declining commodity prices, increasing cost of production and marketing as well as a number of related economic challenges faced by each country. Many countries would be still recovering from the effects of the 2015 El Nino on crop production and related business losses as it would take almost a year for coconut trees to return to normal yields after such prolonged drought. India is amongst very few countries, if not one of the only countries, that practice harvesting of water for crop irrigation that include coconut plantations with the innovative method of fertigation practised in one or two of its provinces.

The increasing demand for coconuts, as a direct result of the revolutionary production trend of virgin coconut oil (VCO) and other high value products of coconut, is affecting supply capability at farm level. Export of VCO increases by 20% each year in the Philippines whilst India is experiencing nearly 400% increase each month as a producing nation entering the market much later. Thailand has basically run short of coconuts thus putting pressure on Indonesian suppliers of fresh nuts as well as desperately seeking out sources of planting material. Many Pacific countries are moving rapidly from copra making to VCO production. Whilst APCC is yet to collate and establish reliable statistics for VCO production the national data provided for the large producing countries are clear indication of the scenario if projected 20 years from today would result in a deficit or negative flow in coconut production.

A number of APCC member countries are now seeking out external cooperation and collaborative arrangements for exchange or purchase of planting material along with transfer of any related or relevant technologies. Communities that are 20-30 years behind in replanting may face severe shortage of supply for the similar period when current trees reach senility as is the case with a majority of smallholder plantings in the Pacific that would reach over 80 years of age before 2020. APCC therefore continues to encourage countries to harness into their national development priorities the agenda of aggressively pursuing planting of coconuts.

It is encouraging to also learn of the initiatives taken in a number of countries to diversify under the coconut trees through intercropping and livestock activity enabling farms and farmers to achieve status of viability. The choice of what activity to incorporate or integrate with coconut is driven by the strengths and opportunities created through the markets. Cocoa is a common stable crop cultivated under coconut in many Asia Pacific countries whilst cattle or small livestock under coconut provides a cost-effective method of weed control to enable maximised harvest of coconuts though not expected to be profitable as a smallholder activity but rather to supplement household income when eventually surplus stock is sold. Pacific countries such as Vanuatu are well known for the cattle industry and an example of all cattle grazing under coconut trees. Vanuatu beef is exported mostly to Japan and Japanese clients overseas as well as throughout the Pacific.

APCC looks forward to another coconut year with hope for increase in income for coconut farmers to enable every family to meet their daily cash needs for food, shelter, clothing, basic education for children and primary health care. Let us make 2016 a year of progress.

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